Charles Davis Smith is a Dallas-based photographer who weaves his training as an architect and skill with the camera into memorable images that celebrate the architectural experience. A collaborator and artist at his core, he employs a keen understanding of design in the aesthetic and technical approaches to each image. His work has appeared in publications worldwide and has earned a multitude of design awards for his clients.
As an undergraduate architecture student at Texas A&M University, Charles understood the power of images to convey an architect’s design intent, their usefulness as tools of learning and inspiration, and their necessity as stand-ins for the actual experience of a building. When he also noticed the sometime disconnect between images and the actual project, he picked a camera himself and began to experiment. Independent graduate studies in preservation, which required extensive documentation of structures around Texas, fueled his newfound passion. After teaching a class on photography while a graduate student at Texas A&M and then taking his first architectural job, he contributed to pursue his growing interest in in the craft, shooting projects on nights and weekends.
As he began to take on more photography work, he trained his preservationist’s eye on the modern architecture of Dallas, working closely with Texas regionalist Frank Welch, another mentor. Largely self-taught, Charles’ counts noted photographer Norman McGrath, whose work photographing the now demolished Penn Station was an early inspiration among his mentors. Likewise, the work of Ezra Stoller and Julius Schulman provided an aesthetic framework for navigating the viewer into his images. Eventually photography became a full-time professional pursuit.
Exploration, both through the lens and through technology is a constant in his work, whether it is early adoption of digital photography and now, the use of drones to capture perspective and context in unprecedented ways. Charles imparts an understanding of the implications of seasonal sunlight, shading and shadows not only to add depth to a two-dimensional image but also to convey the architect’s design. His images appear as three-dimensional objects painted with interwoven layers of forms, a juxtaposition of materials and colors, light, and delineating shadow lines. His images convey a story, gracefully navigating the viewer through a project and providing both explanation and inspiration.